We’ve all had that awkward experience where we’ve met someone several times but just can’t remember their name. We do a verbal dance when we meet them, hoping their name gets mentioned again so we don’t have to ask that dreaded question: “I’m sorry, what’s your name again?”
The Importance of Remembering Names and Faces
It’s very endearing when you remember someone’s name, story and unique aspects of their personality. It’s a way to separate yourself from amateur event planners and reach the pantheon of event planning gods (OK, that’s a slight exaggeration, but you will be a lot better at your job).
In our multicultural environment, you’ll come across names that you may have never heard before like Jugatheeswaren or Xi Ping Shu (those are actual names by the way). As someone with an ethnic name that has been butchered many times, I’m impressed when someone not only remembers but is able to pronounce my name properly. Being great with names is one of those subtle advantages that can make you much more effective socially.
But as event planners you will interact with hundreds, if not thousands, of people a year. Keeping track of all these people and important information about them is quite challenging. Giving you a complete breakdown of memory tactics is beyond this humble short article, but here are some tips you can use to get started.
1. Use your imagination (and don’t be afraid to get a little freaky)
The best memories are often highly emotionally charged or incredibly bizarre so be don’t be afraid to get imaginative in the privacy of your own mind. If someone reminds you of an old friend or a cartoon character use that as a mental aid. Let’s say I meet a man named Rupert and he loves tennis. When I think Rupert, I think Rupert the Bear. To remember that he enjoys tennis I imagine Rupert the Bear having an intense tennis match with that man. Let your imagination take you to strange places, because these will be your most memorable references.
2. Write it down (“The weakest pen is better than the strongest memory”)
This might sound blasphemous coming from a memory champion, but the best way to never forget is to write things down. During an event make sure to write down names and important information about the people you meet on your phone or in a small journal. Use your imagination from step one to make strong associations with their names. At the end of the day use a spreadsheet to add all the names, email and other contact info, along with any other relevant details about the new contacts. Then be sure to do tip number three.
3. Spaced Repetition (The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve)
Despite what you might think Ebbinghaus is not a genre of electronic music, but a 19th century scientist who studied how we forget. According to the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, the majority of our forgetting happens within the first three days to one week. This forgetting drops exponentially as time goes on. By reviewing names and other important information during these key moments we can ensure that they are easier to retrieve from our long-term memory.
By using your imagination to create strong associations between names, writing down important information, and reviewing them during key times, you can ensure that you are far less likely to have to say, “Sorry what’s your name again?”
–Arnov Rahman is a memory training expert and the 2014 Canadian Memory Champion.